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The BCCI India rights conundrum

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MUMBAI: With BCCI's India media rights coming up in March, big broadcasters and digital players are readying their war chest of cash.

The current holder, Star India, acquired the rights in 2012 at Rs 3851 crore for a six-year period across 96 matches. The amount comes down to an average of Rs 40 crore per match. Multi Screen Media (Sony) bid a close second with Rs 3700 crore.

Last year, The Hindu quoted a BCCI official who said, “I wondered how Star India even agreed to pay that price for each of the three forms of internationals. The reserve price could be Rs 30 crore for home internationals, if not even lower, next year.” In the last couple of years, BCCI officials, both former and present, have made no secret of the fact that Star India would not agree to enter the India bid race if the reserve price for a home international match (including Tests, ODIs and T20Is) is set anywhere close to Rs 43 crore.

Therefore, it is fair to assume that Star India struggled to make money on the matches. Supporting this argument, a media observer said, “We can’t say how much of the subscription revenue they would be apportioning to India team, because when Star sells its subscription bouquet, it is sold as an overall sports package, not right wise. If we compare ad rates vis-à-vis the rights acquisition, they have not made money.”

Star India, in September 2017, hit all other bidders in the fray for a six with just one single mind-boggling global bid of Rs 16,347.50 crore to acquire the broadcast and digital rights of the Indian Premier League (IPL) for the next five years. IPL is hotter than even international events. An IPL game will fetch Rs 55 crore per whereas an international match brings about Rs 40 crore. Star India might focus on making the IPL the biggest revenue-generating property in the world after the EPL and the NBA.

According to industry sources, broadcasters will be looking at paying Rs 35 crore per match, touted to be a fair amount in current market standards, to the BCCI for the upcoming rights acquisition.

Sony Pictures Network (SPN) India is likely to make a strong bid for the Indian cricket team home rights. We know that Sony already has the Rs 11,000 crore that it was ready to splurge on the IPL rights.

The other contender, Dsport, is also rumoured to throw its hat into the ring for the BCCI rights. In an interview to Mint last month, Discovery Communication India SVP and GM Karan Bajaj stated, “We may look at putting cricket on Dsport next year after launching the general entertainment channel Discovery Jeet." The channel even picked up the bidding document for IPL media rights but didn’t turn up on the bidding day.

For digital rights, players like Facebook, Twitter, Reliance Jio, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, and Sony Liv will play a crucial role. Facebook was the highest bidder from the digital communication platforms for the IPL with Rs 3900 crore followed by Jio with Rs 3075 crore. Hotstar, which was launched in February 2015, wasn’t in the picture when Star India acquired the BCCI rights in 2012. 

Meanwhile, Twitter and Amazon have gotten their hands on one of the most high-profile sports properties in the world, the National Football League (NFL). In the time to come, both players have vowed to dominate the live sporting segment on digital in India, too.

The contract with Nimbus, before the rights went to Star in 2012, had a base price of Rs 31.25 crore per game for each of the three formats purely for the broadcast rights. The BCCI's marketing committee had kept the base price at Rs 31.25 crore plus Rs 1 crore (i.e, Rs 32.25 crore) for an international game in the A category and Rs 33 crore plus Rs 1 crore (Rs 34 crore) for B category matches.

Looking at the current scenario, broadcasters will have to cough up a reasonable amount, which can be in the range of Rs 32-38 crore, in order to be in profit. The fact that Star India may not agree to enter the India rights bid, if the reserve price for a home international match is set anywhere close to its previous bid, will help broadcasters such as Sony and Discovery to be in strong contention.

Also Read :

The year of big switch in sports broadcasting

BCCI invites brands to acquire third-party rights for IPL

Comment: Is BCCI lbw on Star's sponsorship googly?

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